Thursday, December 31, 2009


Wolf Parade
Apologies To The Queen Mary
(Sub Pop, 2005)

Remember how early associations of Wolf Parade with Modest Mouse had the mainstream media constantly comparing the two bands? It’s a pretty ridiculous comparison, but whatever, it can be hard for Rolling Stone to distinguish between two bands that both use guitar, bass and drums. On my first listens I remember being intrigued but unable to grasp the album as a whole. I don’t think I knew then that there was two vocalists/songwriters in Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner. And so, Apologies To The Queen Mary unfolded itself to me slowly, but fold by fold, triangle by square, Wolf Parade became THEE wolf band of the day and, as it now turns out, of the decade. Wolf Parade’s debut is rich with grand songwriting at every fold, and still unfolding.



The Knife
Silent Shout
(Rabid/Mute, 2006)

I came to Silent Shout way after the fact and, on my first listen, I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. However, on my second listen I tripped and fell deep into the bizarre electronic rabbit hole excavated by this genius brother/sister duo. Sassigrass and I almost solely listened to this album on a cross-country road trip from SLC to D.C. and back. I don’t know what type of Scandinavian bewitching powder these two used on Silent Shout, but it has kept me entranced and increasingly ensnared after every listen. One of the creepiest, kitschiest…you know what? I really don’t know. It simply it is what it is. There is nothing quite like it. In other breaking news, and in an effort to continue my ill-fated habit of pre-emptively announcing an albums placement on a best of list before hearing anything else: after having heard “Colouring of Pigeons,” the new track off of Tomorrow, In A Year, I think Sassigrass and I both are prepared to announce the album as the best of next decade. Seriously, If you haven’t heard it yet, you best get your priorities straight. Check it here:



Animal Collective
(Fat Cat, 2005)

Feels is the first album from Animal Collective that started to receive the tag of accessibility, which is funny, because now each successive release has been their ‘accessible’ record. Who cares if it’s accessible when it's this incredible? Absolutely and totally amazing and imaginative and surprising. Sassigrass and I and a couple other friends roadtripped out to San Francisco in order to see Animal Collective shortly after this came out and it was definitely one of the best shows I have ever seen. Talking to their road manager at a show a couple years later in SLC, he remarked that that San Francisco show was the best show (the “quintessential”) Animal Collective had ever played. I think they were just feeding off the good vibes established with Feels. So many great moments, it’s almost too good.



Cannibal Ox
The Cold Vein
(Def Jux, 2001)

The laconic delivery and undeniable chemistry of emcees Vaste Air and Vordul Mega as set to psychotic/futuristic production of El-P is, simply put, the best hip hop album of this decade (of course, IMO). No one else has pinned together such a consistently resilient lyrical exposition, nor has anyone delivered it with such a handsome array of aural paranoia. Simply astounding.



Andrew Bird
The Mysterious Production of Eggs
(Righteous Babe, 2005)

Andrew Bird is a model of consistency. He doesn’t have a single album under his name that isn’t worth a listen. However, it was The Mysterious Production of Eggs that really convinced me that he was more then just a consistent songwriter. The delicacy of this album’s instrumentation coupled with the grace of Bird’s voice is probably one of the most charming things I’ve ever heard. His songs on this album are simple, subtle concoctions of lemonade happiness. This is the way I want my life to sound.



Lightning Bolt
Wonderful Rainbow
(Load, 2003)

Wonderful Rainbow holds an unexpected romantic sentimentality for me. When Sassigrass and I first started dating we shared a bunch of music with each other and of the truckload of CDs I flung at her, Wonderful Rainbow was the first to stick. Later while playing the album in her room, I jumped atop her bed and proceeded to play a ridiculously technical air-bass line (I believe it was during “Crown Of Storms”) with all the proper punk swagger that is understandably missing from Brian Gibson’s statuesque live performances to the laughter of Sassigrass and, unexpectedly, the slightly embarrassing laughter of my future mother-in-law as she entered the room unannounced. Cute huh? Perhaps the cutest story ever to accompany this deathly pummeling monument of noise and rock that is Lightning Bolt’s Wonderful Rainbow.



Arcade Fire
(Merge, 2004)

What can I say about this album that hasn’t already been said? Nothing. This is indie rock at its most emotionally transparent and very best. Oh, and on a super side note, I loved Where The Wild Things Are (the movie, but also the book).



Akron/Family & Angels of Light
Akron/Family & Angels of Light
(Young God, 2005)

When Akron/Family created the first half of this split CD they must’ve been aware of the impact it would have on thousands of listeners around the world. I mean how could you listen to it and not immediately mark Akron/Family as your new favourite band of all time? In seven songs, Akron/Family crammed in more creativity, energy and sheer musical bravado than could be heard in 5o full albums from all the RIYL bands that you could throw at them. Bursts of uncontrolled imagination spill all over the band's contribution to this split effort. Angels of Light’s half of the split hangs over Akron/Family like a wise parent, tempering it and revealing some of my favourite songs Michael Gira has put out. The combination is sheer glory and jewels...sheer glory and jewels.



Minus Story
The Captain Is Dead, Let The Drum Corpse Dance
(Jagjaguwar, 2004)

There is something about The Captain Is Dead, Let The Drum Corpse Dance that reminds me of rain. I love rain. I know, I should move to Seattle or something. But why would I need to when I have this album? Obviously this correlation is part of some subconscious memory. Or maybe a conscious one. Like the time Sassigrass went to see Minus Story at Kilby Court in Salt Lake and no one else showed up to the show so the band decided that they better keep on truckin’ to Denver or wherever they were headed. It was raining that night. It was a minor tragedy. Talking about the album specifically, The Captain Is Dead has some of the best recorded drums that I’ve ever heard. They puncture the recording and vibrate everything on the record. As far as Minus Story's sound as a whole on the album: noisy, caustic, sentimental, lush and weird: I love it. Really, one of the most slept on records of the past decade.



(Mush, 2001)

Man, what a dream team we had with cLOUDEAD. In retrospect, I probably should have cherished it more. But the splitting of the group hasn’t been all bad. I mean, Subtle and Why? are both super amazing on their own, but it was the teaming of emcees Doseone and Why? together with the brilliant Odd Nosdam which started it all. Their debut reeks of the most inventive, forward thinking “hip/hop” music that has ever been created. Honestly, I don’t consider the misty, tentacled sprawl of cLOUDDEAD to be a hip hop album. It is a cLOUDDEAD album, and as such, a landmark for music as a whole.



(Spooky Action, 2006)

Axolotl’s Telesma is the finest example of noise as beauty of which I am aware. Karl Bauer’s ability to turn a violin into anything but a violin is witchcraft, which is probably why I am so bewitched. There are so many layers, Telesma is simply bubbling over with gorgeousness. For fans of Belong, Fennesz or Tim Hecker, this is your new holy grail. I think it is better than any of them.



Ryan Adams
(Bloodshot, 2000)

For some reason, at the very least when set amongst the album in my top 20, this album feels the most out of place. It is definitely the most emo album to make the list for sure and, in addition, it’s pretty straight forward country/Americana. Nope, no experimentation here. But there is just something about the emotional heft inhabiting the songs on Heartbreaker that accomplish exactly what the title suggests. The saddest album I’ve probably ever heard and an unfortunate fuel to my adolescent high school depressions. Now that I think of it, I probably wouldn't have been depressed at all if it wasn't for this album. Still, the album is perfect from front to back and one of the most beautiful records that I have ever heard.



The Microphones
The Glow, Pt. 2
(K, 2001)

I received this in the mail along with UNKLE just prior to leaving on a 5 hour drive to vacation in Lake Powell in southern Utah. While I certainly leant some time to Psyence Fiction during the trip, it was The Glow, Pt. 2 which truly enchanted me. I’m sure that I listened to the album twenty to thirty times over the course of that trip and for good reason. The Glow, Pt. 2 is Phil Elverum at his very best. I mean, I’m pretty sure it is better than Mount Eerie, but I’m stubborn in my love for that album. So many little perfections and expectedly perfect album art.



Sunset Rubdown
Shut Up I Am Dreaming
(Absolutely Kosher, 2006)

Following up the amazing debut of by his other “wolf” band (and who doesn’t have an “other wolf band” nowadays?), Spencer Krug set out with this side project to confirm his wonder boy status. Shut Up I Am Dreaming is not lo-fi, but it’s definitely rougher around the edges than Apologies to the Queen Mary. Lyrically, Krug’s work here (and elsewhere) is second only to Ms. Newsom. Krug’s fantastical poetics are transportative and perfectly matched with Krug’s knack for powerfully theatrical rock n' roll hooks. I love more than most things, rocking out on the air guitar to this album.



Red House Painters
Old Ramon
(Sub Pop, 2001)

This is my Saturday-morning-with-nothing-to-do album. Getting up late, I used to turn this album on and just take an hour or so to get out of bed. There isn’t a more relaxing record in my mind.



Talk Amongst the Trees
(Temporary Residence, 2005)

My acquisition of Eluvium’s Talk Amongst the Trees was a chance decision based on spontaneity; however, Talk Amongst the Trees is anything but spontaneous. I don’t think I would have ever guessed how deeply the looped ruminations of this album would penetrate me or how important it would be in my ensuing interest in experimental music, but that's the whole excitement of such purchases: not knowing. With the increasing pervasiveness of downloading, I think that that feeling has been lost a little bit. But I'm not here to worry about that, I am here to say that listening to Talk Amongst the Trees and its endless beauties is so wonderful that it has become a spiritual experience for me.



Joanna Newsom
(Drag City, 2006)

One of the most consistently majestic, breath taking albums from this past decade. Newsom’s voice burrows so deeply and when laid atop of the incredible orchestration lent to Ys by whoever that dude is that worked on Smile it becomes, in a word, transcendent. Beyond the aural perfections of the album, Ys is chalk full of pitch perfect lyricism that crowns Joanna Newsom as my favourite lyricist of this past decade, if not of all time. I have no idea how Newsom plans to top this, but it may go without saying that her next release is the most anticipated that I can ever remember waiting for. Pure elfish magic.



Animal Collective
Sung Tongs
(Fat Cat, 2004)

I don’t know of any album on this list that was as immediately, shockingly revelatory as Sung Tongs was to me. I mean, how could anyone get past “Leaf House” and not see the world in a completely new light? Along with all the creativity and beautiful musicality that is embodied in this record, one of the most incredible parts of it to me is the childlike wonderment that it invokes. There is just this haphazard, bare foot, running-around-the-neighborhood-causing-beautiful-mischief vibe that no album captures as purely as Sung Tongs does. This is what childhood is. This is the kind of childishness that informs, to one degree or another, all great art.



The Microphones
Mount Eerie
(K, 2003)

The first time I listened to Mount Eerie, I didn’t know the ridiculously convoluted concept behind it. Yet, even without this knowledge, I popped the CD into my portable CD player (remember those), put on some oversized headphones and proceeded to hike up a nearby canyon. Alone with nature and this album, it was perhaps the single most poignant experience I’ve had with any album. Regardless of what you think of Phil Elverum’s nature deifying ideologies, you can’t fault the man for constructing perfect aural accompaniments for the beautiful nature of the northwest. I’ve listened to the album plenty of times since then of course, skipping the lengthy drum intro far fewer times than you might expect, and each time I’m astounded by the communal and artistic energy that the album holds. Is it any wonder why he is now known as Mount Eerie?



The Kallikak Family
May 23rd 2007
(Tell-All Records, 2005)

It’s fitting and probably more than a little telling that the first review I posted for Forest Gospel was for May 23rd 2007 by The Kallikak Family. To this day I am still more enchanted by this series of recordings than any other that I have listened to. That’s a pretty hefty claim to place on the shoulders of such an obscure album, but it’s the truth. Andrew Peterson’s (aka The Kallikak Family) way of weaving together disparate instrumentation that is alternately industrial and pastoral just hits me in all the right ways. Additionally, the sequencing of the album is Perfection with a capital P. While May 23rd 2007 contains many pockets of vocal crooning, there are no lyrics to speak of. Yet, even with that being the case, the album’s musical quality does more to develop a narrative than anything I’ve ever heard from “literate” bands like The Decemberists. What The Kallikak Family has created here is simultaneously epic and cuttingly personal. For me, it is the most magnificent document of sound put to tape in this decade and I do not make that claim lightly.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mantis's Best Albums of 2009

By this time last year, I more-or-less knew that 2009 was going to be a gift. For me, personally, like, To: Braying Mantis, From: Music, XOXO. The sheer number of my alltime favorite artists who would be releasing new music guaranteed it. What's remarkable in hindsight, then, is how un-disappointed I have been - what a year, what a gift! And with suprises as strong and amazing as the expecteds! All I'd like to say is, Thanks. Thanks to Music, for the wondrous, challenging, joyful, and important year. Now, without further ado, my list of 2009's best records:

50. The Antlers - Hospice
49. Jon Hopkins - Insides
48. Mos Def - The Ecstatic
47. Dedaoorian - Mind Raft
46. The Field - Yesterday and Today
45. Swan Lake - Enemy Mine
44. Grooms - Rejoicer
43. Preslay LiterarySchool - Beautiful Was The Time
42. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
41. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

40. No Age - Losing Feeling
39. Madlib - Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6: A Tribute To...
38. Thee Oh Sees - Help
37. Allen Toussaint - The Bright Mississippi
36. Tim Hecker - An Imaginary Country
35. Alec Ounsworth - Mo Beauty
34. Candy Claws - In The Dream of the Sea Life
33. Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue
32. Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy
31. Lotus Plaza - The Floodlight Collective

30. Sufjan Stevens - The BQE
29. Deerhunter - Rainwater Casssette Exchange
28. William Basinski - 92982
27. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II
26. Antony and The Johnsons - The Crying Light
25. Tom Waits - Glitter and Doom Live
24. Black Dice - Repo
23. Here We Go Magic - Here We Go Magic
22. Clark - Totem Flare
21. Ras G - Brotha From Anotha Planet

20. Flying Lotus - L.A. EP 3 X 3
19. St. Vincent - Actor
18. Mount Eerie - Wind's Poem
17. Fever Ray - Fever Ray
16. HEALTH - Get Color

15. Burial & Four Tet - Moth/Wolf Cub

14. Prefuse 73 - Meditation Upon Meditations (The Japanese Diaries)

13. The See Through Boy - I Am Constellation

12. Andrew Douglas Rothbard - Exodusarabesque

11. A Sunny Day in Glasgow - Ashes Grammar

10. Atlas Sound - Logos

9. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport

8. Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

7. Dragging An Ox Through Water - The Tropics of Phenoenon

6. Dan Deacon - Bromst

5. Navigator - Bad Children (and a special mention for Braden J. McKenna - Gigantic Monster Cave)


3. Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer

2. The Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

1. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion (and a special mention for Fall Be Kind)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009- The Year Music Died

Don't get my title wrong. I am not implying that music really died. I am sure it is just as alive as ever; but to me, it took a little vacation. It is the end of the year and I keep telling Thistle that I am going to write a year end list, but 2009 is also the year lists died to me. With internet culture rampantly breathing down our necks everyone and their dog finds that they are compelled to pen year end lists: top ten movies, top ten books, best songs, favorite cat youtubes, top ten failed Obama promises, whatever. And since it is 2009, those list are doubling to include decade lists. These lists are consuming our interwebs, made by people who are not necessarily qualified to make these lists, and that's about where I see myself this year: not qualified. (Thistle is qualified. I see those weekly stats. I know you all love him). I have listened to probably a fourth the music I usually listen to in a year, and one billionth of what Thistle has listened to. If any of you are new readers, you probably don't even know that Thistle is not the only writer on Forest Gospel. I have been dormant for some time now. Here's reason number one-

I birthed this gorgeous monstrosity early this year. He has consumed my life and quite possibly my soul. He sleeps all day and never through the night. I don't listen to anything even remotely hard edged or laced with creepy or experimental or loud or basically anything around him unless it is soft and gorgeous and mellow (particularly for the first few months of his life) because he is sensitive as all get out, which brings me to my first Sassy Award that I want to give out this year-

ALBUM THAT SAVED MY LIFE- Andrew Bird's Noble Beast

I basically had this album on repeat for the first few month's of my son's life. He LOVES this album. It could calm him down from crying in about 1.25 songs. If I was driving in the car and he got fussy, BAM! Andrew Bird saves the day. We took naps to this album, played to this album and were comforted by Bird's gorgeous croon. I started listening to this a few weeks before my son was born and I swear it was familiar to him when he made his debut in the world. We listened to it in the hospital and he knew it. He would listen intently, it was amazing.

Another thing that kept me from music this year was work. I work with a small crew painting murals and faux paint on the interiors of people's mansions. My boss doesn't think it's appropriate to listen to music while in said people's mansions, and I can't wear headphones. When I get home from work I need to play with the above mentioned child, do dishes, laundry, cook dinner, work on art, and watch So You Think You Can Dance. I absolutely hate listening to new music as background music, in fact I don't really like background noise of any sort, especially when I am exhausted (which has been this entire year). If I am going to listen to something, I want to be able to sit down and give it a good old fashioned intent listening to. So, basically the only time I am sitting down and intently listening is while in my car. Half this year my ipod has been broken, and quite frankly I have been more interested in politics this year than music and have been listening mostly to NPR while driving, and the rest of the time while my ipod has been being a baby I have been surfing the radio for the first time in years and years, and I made a huge discovery. I like crappy radio singles! I had sworn off radio years ago, and made fun of stupid hip hop songs the get replayed every five seconds, but 2009 changed my mind. Radio singles rocked this year with hip hop collabs shining brightly. My next award is...

First off let's listen to a little Kid Cudi, Common and Kanye in "Make Her Say"

2009 really belongs to Jay-Z, so how about a little "Run This Town" with Rihanna and Kanye

This next one could most likely be dubbed my favorite single of the year. Although, not a radio single in these neck of the woods, it's a single and a collab nonetheless. Here is Kid Cudi, with Ratatat and MGMT.

Wow, that was fun. I just felt like radio DJ there for a moment. But, this post isn't about fun, it's about excuses and complaining, so let's get back to that. I could go off about feeling inadequate next to Thistle, or my friend's frustrating allusions of grandeur, or how last year's annoying lo-fi craze turned me waaaaaay off to new music, or how feeling like you have to review everything you listen to makes me feel abnormal levels of anxiety and this detracts from my enjoyment and thus is the reason for my absence. I could, but instead let me just remind everyone that 2009 will forever be remembered by people in their right minds, and haters alike, as the year that one of the closet things to music directly sent to the inhabitants on Earth from heavenly messengers was created.


Just admit it, you like it too.

I am a very sensitive soul, and when I see or hear something that I love, I cry. It doesn't matter if it's a commercial, a poem, a comic book, a dance or a song, just about anything can make me emotional if I truly think it's incredible, and with that said-

THE ONLY ALBUM TO MAKE ME SHED A GENUINE TEAR- Animal Collective's Merryweather Post Pavillion

Yes, I know it is strange to cry to an Animal Collective album. I was already pent up with pregnancy emotions, I was tired and even though it leaked early, we waited until we had bought the vinyl, brought it home and gave it a spin on the ol' turntable to hear it, and when the beat drops a couple minutes into track one it was like a release. My jaw literally dropped and I honestly shed a tear for the beauty that was swelling in our spare bedroom. I love music. I need music, but all these other factors have been impeding my enjoyment of music, and MPP for some reason temporarily broke that shell and reminded me the I LOVE MUSIC. I desperately needed that moment 'cause me and music have been fighting. It was like a aural hug and I wept (let the mocking commence).

My last award is something of a similar release. A place where my pent up musical frustration was temporarily washed aside as I fell in love with music again for a moment.

MY FAVORITE LIVE SHOW- Mt. Eerie and No Kids at Kilby Court

Now that we have a child, 21+ venues are a no-go. We aren't going to send our kid to a babysitter from 10pm until 2am. We aren't that crappy of parents. And for any locals reading this you know that the current status of good shows in Utah are primarily 21+. Thistle and I used to attend 1-3 shows a week, and this year I think we attended 1-3 shows total (well, maybe 10 or something). I don't really miss shows all that bad. I hate standing for long periods of time and Thistle and I agree, we have seen nearly every band that we really want to see live, but I hadn't seen No Kids yet, and I really adore them. They played an incredible set which I wrote about earlier this year, should you be so inclined to read. Mt. Eerie also brought the house down and obliterated my ear drums, as well as the eardrums of our offspring, so we left slightly early, but even with leaving prematurely I felt completely fulfilled. I reached that level of gratification that only the best of live bands can give you.

And that's about all the awards I want to give out. I told you I wasn't qualified. I listened to about the same music that everyone else listened to. Sure, I loved the new Beirut, and Bon Iver was astounding live. I listened to other albums that were good and worthy of being mentioned, but they've already been mentioned this year in one million other lists. I can't offer you anything new or exciting to look up, but I still wanted to write this, mostly for Thistle. So here it is, my homage to the music in my life in 2009.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thistle's best favourites of 2009

‘Sup my twine suckas? In light of some hefty essays and finals that I will be (and am) engulfed in for the next couple weeks, I think it is safe to say that I won’t be seeking out any new music in 2009 before it comes to a close. Fortunately, I have already listened to pretty much everything that has been released this year (except for most of it) so I think I am pretty well ready to get this over with. Also, no blurbs. Everything on here (with the exception of one album) has been reviewed on Forest Gospel this year, so if you’re curious just look them up. Plus, I’ve already done enough blurbing for my end-of-decade list (which is also on the horizon). So here they are, my best favourite albums of 2009:

50) Clark - Totems Flare
49) Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
48) Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
47) Why? - Eskimo Snow
46) James Blackshaw - The Glass Bead Game
45) Black Dice - Repo
44) Anduin - Abandoned in Sleep
43) Mark Templeton + aA. Munson - Acre Loss
42) Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
41) Mountains - Choral

40) Here We Go Magic - Here We Go Magic
39) Giuseppe Ielasi - Aix / (Another) Stunt Ep
38) Bear In Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth
37) Blackout Beach - Skin of Evil
36) The Antlers - Hospice
35) Zs - Music For the Modern White
34) Smith Westerns - Smith Westerns
33) Julianna Barwick - Florine
32) Sparklehorse + Fennesz - In the Fishtank 15
31) Millipede - Death Mountain / Sand & Surf 7"

30) Braden J. McKenna - Gigantic Monster Cave
29) Mount Eerie - Wind's Poem
28) Califone - All My Friends Are Funeral Singers
27) Ekkehard Ehlers + Paul Wirkus - Ballads
26) Bad Hangin' Out - Bad Hangin' Out
25) Atlas Sound - Logos
24) Animal Hospital - Memory
23) Grizzly Bear - Veckematist
22) Burial + Four Tet - Moth/Wolf Cub 12"
21) Swan Lake - Enemy Mine

20) A Sunny Day in Glasgow - Ashes Grammar

19) Leyland Kirby - Sadly, the Future is No Longer What It Was

18) The Hunches - Exit Dreams

17) John Wiese - Circle Snare

16) Fever Ray - Fever Ray

15) Axolotl - Of Bonds In General

14) Prefuse 73 - Meditation Upon Meditations

13) Caboladies - Crowded Out Memory / Constellation Deformity cs

12) Ben Frost - By The Throat

11) Lightning Bolt - Earthly Delights

10) Sam Hamilton - Sooty Symposium

9) DM Stith - Heavy Ghost

8) OOIOO - Armonico Hewa

7) Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer

6) Animal Collective - Merriweather PostPavilion

5) A Faulty Chromosome - Craving To Be Coddled So We Can Feel Fake-Safe

4) Evangelista - Prince of Truth

3) Andrew Douglas Rothbard - Exodusarabesque

2) Dragging An Ox Through Water - The Tropics of Phenomenon

1) Grooms - Rejoicer